Catholic Product Education

Breviary, Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours?


We frequently receive calls from customers looking for the Divine Office or maybe it’s the Breviary or possibly the Liturgy of the Hours. They really aren’t sure what the book is called because it has several names.

If you get requests like this from customers, it’s a good idea to have a little knowledge on your side so you can help them make the right purchase.

First of all, the Divine Office, Breviary and Liturgy of the Hours all refer to the same thing – a book containing prayers that are meant to be said at specific times throughout the day.

History of the Breviary

The hours are an ancient tradition that can be traced back to early Benedictan monastics who took seriously the biblical command to “pray without ceasing”. During the pontificate of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) the use of the Breviary spread beyond the Benedictines to the Roman Papal court.

When the Franciscan Order was founded, they had need of a compact book containing the daily prayers so they created a shorter version of the Breviary that they could take on their travels. This version eventually spread throughout Europe and during the pontificate of Nicholas III (1277-1280) was officially adopted in Rome and eventually by the whole Church.


The Breviary contains a collection of Psalms, Scripture readings, writings of the Church Fathers and other prayers. The Breviary is meant to be prayed at specific times during the day. Before the revision following Vatican II there were many more hours including ones in the middle of the night that have since been dropped.

Organization of the Hours

Prior to Vatican II, the Breviary was divided into sections that were to be prayed about every three hours throughout the day and night. Morning started with Prime at 6am, Terce at 9am, Sext at noon, None at 3pm, Vespers at 6pm, Matins was divided into three parts prayed at 9pm, midnight and 3am and Lauds was prayed at dawn.

Currently the Hours are divided into the Invititory, the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Midmorning, Midday, Midafternoon, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer. The hours prayed late at night have been removed.

Texts Available

The pre-Vatican II Breviary is available in a two-volume, hardback set. This set is entirely in Latin. You can also purchase an abbreviated version called the Divine Office which contains the major hours with English translations alongside the Latin. Divine Office is just another term referring to the Breviary.

There are several options available for the post-Vatican II Breviary, usually referred to as the Liturgy of the Hours. The full Liturgy of the Hours is available in both a leather and vinyl cover edition. You can also get a large print version.

You can also get a single volume edition of the Liturgy of the Hours called Christian Prayer (also available in hardback and large print) that contains the major offices but leaves out the Office of Readings which contains all the wonderful writings of the Church Fathers. You can also get Shorter Christian Prayer which contains just Morning and Evening prayer.

There are also several hymnals and other editions and guides available but this summary should provide you with enough information to answer most questions you receive.

Things You Need to Celebrate a Mass in the Extraordinary Form


Now that Summorum Pontificum has been promulgated and you can celebrate a Mass using the missal of Blessed John XXIII you may be wondering what exactly you will need to properly celebrate the Mass.

Here is a complete list of items you will need to properly stock your sacristy. It’s a long article so I will summarize it here.

First of all, you are going to need an altar missal for the older form of the Mass. This missal is actually the 1960 version with a sticker to insert the change made to the Canon in 1962 where St. Joseph’s name was added.

Second, you are going to need to augment your vestment wardrobe with maniples and an amice and dalmatics if you have a deacon. You are also going to need to get rose and black vestments if you plan on celebrating the Extraordinary Form on Guadete or Laetare Sundays or All Souls’ Day. Please note that many vestment sets come with matching chalice veils and maniples so you won’t have to buy them separately.

For the altar you are going to need to get two additional altar cloths as the extraordinary form requires that the altar be covered with three cloths. You are also going to need to get chalice veils and burses in matching liturgical colors.

Other sanctuary appointments that you will need include Sanctus Bells, a censer (thurible) and boat.

If your parish doesn’t already have servers vested in cassocks and surplices, you are going to need some of those as well (the cassocks and surplices, not the servers).

Finally, you are going to need patens for Holy Communion.

That about covers the physical items you will need. Apart from these you are also going to need:

  • to understand and be able to correctly follow the rubrics of the 1962 Missale Romanum.
  • to be able to properly pronounce Latin and have some understanding of what you are saying. For more on this I suggest reading Fr. Z’s blog.
  • a group of parishioners interested in assisting at a Tridentine Mass. Some bishops are trying to say that there must be 20-50 people who have been requesting the Extraordinary Form for a long period of time but there isn’t anything in the actual document that points to such a requirement.
  • a bishop open to the celebration of the 1962 Missal is also a very big plus even though it isn’t required anymore.

Apart from these essentials, there are a few other things to take into consideration.

First, if you plan on celebrating a Mass in the Extraordinary Form you are going to be under intense scrutiny for the slightest mistake or anything that can be used to “prove” that the Old Form is inferior to the New Form. You should make every possible effort to show the beauty, reverence and sacred character of the Extraordinary Form so that there isn’t anything that can be said against it.

Second, treat each celebration as if it were the model for the entire diocese to follow in its worship. Make sure that you and your servers are well versed in their respective roles. Find skilled musicians. Don’t settle for volunteers who don’t know how to sing and an organ that has more vibrato than an opera singer. Everything from the vestments, to the music to the celebration itself needs to reflect the beauty of the liturgy and show people that they are standing on the doorstep of Heaven. Jeffrey Tucker posted some more thoughts on this.

If you have a group of talented singers who would like to delve into Gregorian Chant, I suggest that you read this and this.

If you are looking for a place to participate in a Mass in the Extraordinary Form and your bishop has a Denethor complex, I suggest you put in for a transfer to St. Louis, Rockville Center, Hartford, Raleigh, Arlington, Springfield, Sioux Falls, Venice (FL), New York, or another like-minded diocese.

If you have a local Tridentine Mass and need a missal you should read our missal guide. We also carry veils and mantillas if you are interested in wearing one to Mass.

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The Accidental Punctum (or How I learned to Love Chant) – Part II


In part one, I went over some great resources for teaching yourself the basics of chant.

In this part I will review some resources that will be of use once you are ready to move beyond the basics and really get into chant.

Okay, so you have learned the different types of notes and know how to sing the Missa de Angelis, Missa Orbis Factor and Missa Primitiva. You also know some basic hymns such as the Ave Maria, Ubi Caritas and Tantum Ergo. It’s time to see what else there is in the world of chant.

Graduale SimplexIf you want practical applications, I suggest that the next title you invest in is the Graduale Simplex. This volume contains the propers for the entire year… You don’t know what a proper is? Okay, quick lesson in Mass parts. The ordinary of the Mass includes the parts of the Mass that don’t change from week to week. These include the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei. These are ordinarily done at every Mass, hence the name “Ordinary”.

The “Propers” for a Mass are the parts of the Mass that are “proper” to a particular day. These include the Introit, the Responsorial Psalm, the Sequence (there are only a couple of these left), the Gospel Acclamation, the Offertory Antiphon and the Communion Antiphon. If you have never heard of most of these, don’t worry. Since they are the norm in the GIRM they are almost always overlooked at Mass because the options are much more interesting. >:)

The Introit is typically sung during the opening procession. The Responsorial is sung between the first and second readings, the Gospel acclamation is sung right before the Gospel, the Offertory Antiphon is sung at the Offertory and the Communion Antiphon is sung after Communion. The propers can still be found in the misalette and if you read them you will notice that they tie together a common theme with the readings. It’s really too bad that these are usually ignored because seeing how the same themes run through the psalms and the readings can really help in focusing on the main idea for the Mass.

Anyway, the Graduale Simplex contains the propers of the entire year in Latin in simple to learn chant. If you have a parish that wants to do chant and wants to do chant in Latin, I recommend this volume as the perfect parish resource. If you attend a Tridentine Mass and the standard propers are too daunting, I recommend the book Proper of the Mass (hardback or spiral bound). This book contains all the Sundays and feasts for the Tridentine Calendar as well as organ accompaniment for practice.

Gregorian Missal For SundaysIf you are ready to take the next step and go all out with the chant, the Gregorian Missal is the book for you. The missal is actually a real missal with all the readings and parts of the Mass for Sunday. In addition, it contains the chants for the propers. The propers in this book are not simple and you really have to have a commitment to learning them in a parish setting for them to work. Personally, I see these chants more for use in a religious community or in a parish by a schola and not by the whole parish.

The Graduale Romanum is the most complete book of chants for the Novus Ordo Mass. This book contains all the propers for all Masses as well as the ordinaries and a selection of hymns. The proper chants in this book are the same ones found in the Gregorian Missal. The Graduale also has three volumes of organ accompaniment for parishes that can’t let go of musical accompaniment for all singing. you would like the same type of book for the Tridentine Mass, the Liber Usualis (The Usual Book) is for you. This book contains all chants for the Tridentine Mass as well as the official Vatican instructions for chant singing in English from the 1950s. Whether or not you attend a Tridentine Mass, this book is the gold standard in chant books and should be part of your collection if you are serious about learning chant. those who want to really become proficient and be able to discuss the various permutations of chant minutiae throughout history, there are two essential books for you. The first is Gregorian Semiology which is a thorough historical study of the development of chant through the centuries. The second is the Graduale Triplex. The Triplex is the same book as the Graduale Romanum with the inclusion of two very old notations above and below the modern notation. This historical reference is important because chant notation didn’t start out as notes on a cleff but instead as notations by the choir master on a text indicating where to speed up, hold and slow down parts of the chant. Original chant notation looks a lot like shorthand instead of like modern musical notes and gives an indication of the proper way to phrase the music.

The Accidental Punctum (or How I learned to Love Chant) – Part I


Gregorian chant. Saying the words can put some people into a state of euphoria and make others have apoplectic fits.

For those who are used to standard music notation, chant notation can seem like learning Latin when you know Spanish – it looks pretty familiar but you can’t just jump in and start singing.

First of all, learning chant is actually much easier than learning standard notation. There are only two clefs and no “key of ___”. There are only four bars. There aren’t any sharps. The one area where chant can get complex is in the actual interpretation of the notes.

Gregorian ChantHere is a brief survey of materials available for chant so you can teach yourself, or introduce it at your parish.

If you want an in depth history of chant before you get down to business, we suggest the book Gregorian Chant by Willi Apel. This book covers the entire history of chant both in the Latin rite and also contains information about Ambrosian and Old Roman chant.

Square Notes WorkbookTo start your journey, the best book we have found for learning chant is The Square Notes Workbook. This book was designed to teach you chant from the ground up in simple lessons. The book teaches the different types of notes as well as techniques for singing the texts without making them sound monotonous. The Square Notes Workbook also contains questions at the end of each lesson that are great if you are trying to teach a class or even just make sure you have learned the material yourself.

If you want a book that is a little more advanced, Beginning Studies in Gregorian Chant is a good book to look at. This book was written as a class book for Solesmes – the home of the modern chant revival.

O Lux BeatissimaThere are two CDs we also recommend for learning the basics of chant. The first is Learning Gregorian Chant which is an introduction to chant interspersed with sung samples by the monks of Solesmes. The second is O Lux Beatisima which is one of two (2, dos, duo)! chant products from Oregon Catholic Press. This CD has a great selection of common chants that could be the start of a parish repertoire.

Once you have a basic understanding of chant, it’s time to take a look at some real chant hymnals. The booklet Jubilate Deo was published by the Vatican after Vatican II as the basic list of chants that every parish should use so I’m sure you are all familiar with it and use it regularly ;-) . Unfortunately, this booklet takes the chant and translates it into modern notation.

Adoremus HymnalThe Adoremus Hymnal, which comes in congregation, choir and organ editions, contains a large selection of chants for the Ordinary of the Mass in chant notation as well as a large selection of Catholic hymns in a more traditional vein for Mass. We have used this hymnal in our parish and except for a lack of dynamics markings and the strange inclusion of some harmony parts that aren’t actually for voices, the book has worked well.

If you would just like to learn the Ordinaries of the Mass and a selection of other chant hymns, the Kyriale is for you. This hymnal is a great supplement to your standard parish hymnal if you would just like to start adding chant to your Masses. This hymnal was also published by Solesmes.

Next: Okay, you’ve got the basics. Now what?

A Primer on Catholic Missals – Part II


Post-Vatican II Missals

There are three types of Post-Vatican II missals. You will want to find out from your customer which type he is looking for before pulling missals off the shelf.

Disposable missals

Magnificat monthly missalFor people who don’t want the expense of a permanent missal, there are two options available. First, there is an annual missal available from Catholic Book Publishing that contains all Sunday readings for a year. Unfortunately, this missal sells out by February and can rarely be found after that.

The other option is the monthly Magnificat. The Magnificat contains daily readings for a month and can either be ordered as a subscription or purchased at your store on a monthly basis. The subscription is significantly less expensive but we have found that the reliability of delivery needs to be worked on. The Magnificat also contains morning and evening prayer and spiritual reflections. There is also a childrens version available called Magnifikid!.

Multi-Volume Missals

St. Joseph 3 Volume Missal SetFor customers who don’t need a daily missal or want to carry smaller books, a multi-volume set is the way to go. Multi-volume sets are available from two publishers – Catholic Book Publishing (CBP) and Pauline Books and Media (PBM). The CBP version is a three volume set that has a large variety of options. The PBM version is two volumes with a more limited number of options. The CBP set has a yearly guide available that tells which pages to go to in the Missal. The PBM books have a calendar on the inside cover that runs through 2016.

The CBP Sunday Missal comes in a variety of styles, including giant print, burgundy zipper, black hardback, green hardback, red vinyl and brown flex cover. The weekday missals (2 volumes) are available in vinyl and black zipper. You can also get all three zipper volumes in a gift box.

There is only one PBM Sunday missal available and two weekday options – a flex cover and a zipper cover.

Pauline Book and Media also offers the Vatican II Daily Missal in Spanish.

Daily Missals

Burgundy Daily Roman MissalIf your customer is looking for a one-volume missal or wants to have parts of the Mass in Latin, the Daily Roman Missal is the only way to go. These missals have all thee readings for the year, extra prayers and the ordinary of the Mass in Latin and English. The Daily Roman Missal is available in several versions including large print black leather, large print burgundy leather, large print burgundy hardback, black leather and burgundy leather.

I will cover the options available for children’s missals at another time.

A Primer in Catholic Missals – Part I


When you have customers come into your store who hold up two different missals, can you give them an intelligent explanation of what distinguishes each? If not, this guide is for you. If you are in the market for a Missal, take this information with you when you go shopping.

The first question that needs to be asked is whether the customer is looking for a Tridentine or post-Vatican II missal.

Tridentine Missals

Tridentine missals are used for the Mass as celebrated before Vatican II and still licitly celebrated throughout the world. There are several options for Tridentine missals. All of the Tridentine Missals contain Latin and English on opposite pages for just about everything except the readings. The St. Joseph missal is the exception in that it is entirely English except for the ordinary of the Mass.

The St. Andrew Daily MissalSt. Andrew Daily Missal

The St. Andrew Daily is one of the most popular Tridentine missals. This missal was the only one in print for a very long time so your customers are likely familiar with it. Unfortunately, this missal was last updated in 1945 so several Mass changes, especially the major changes for Holy Week are not in this version. This missal is available in a red-edged version and a gold-edged version.

The St. Joseph Daily Missal

The St. Joseph Daily Missal is almost entirely English and was last updated in 1953. It does contain English/Latin for the ordinary of the Mass but all other prayers are just English. It sufferes from the same deficiency as the St. Andrew Missal in that it lacks the changes to Holy Week from 1955. The one thing that sets this missal apart is the reproduction of famous works of art (in black and white) in addition to the standard woodcuts and line drawings found in other missals.

The shortcomings of these missals can be addressed with the Sacred Triduum Missal which contains all of the Mass text for Holy Week.

1962 Daily Missal1962 Daily Missals

Due to the increased interest in the Tridentine Mass, two publishers have released daily missals updated with the last Mass changes before Vatican II.

These missals have very similar content but the 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal has an imitation leather cover while the Daily missals from Boronius Press have genuine leather covers and come in white and black.

For customers who just want an inexpensive way to follow the Mass, there is a booklet available. This booklet is also available in wedding and funeral editions.

Stay tuned for part two on Post Vatican II Missals.